'Putin's Army' tries sexy messaging ahead of 2012 elections
The social-networking phenomenon is urging women to tear their clothes off for Vladimir Putin. It's part of a bizarre range of PR activities rushing into a vacuum of real political competition.
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But the obvious suspects vigorously deny involvement.Skip to next paragraph
"We don't have the slightest idea who they are," Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said by telephone Monday. "There are a lot of strange people around."
Kristina Potupchik, press secretary of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi, which has often staged demonstrations and street theater to dramatize conservative causes, says she doesn't know who did it either. "It is just one more independent project," says Ms. Potupchik. "These people clearly like Putin just as we do, that's it."
There have been quite a few people using Putin's name in dubious PR exercises lately.
Last year a group of "independent" female Moscow University students produced a risquée 2011 calendar in honor of Putin's birthday, which sold 50,000 copies. It featured the women in lingerie and was headlined "We Love You Vladimir Vladimirovich!" A full copy can be found on the blog of none other than Ms. Potupchik.
In May freelance cartoonist Sergei Kalenik posted a comic-strip on a specially created website www.superputin.ru – which has since had over 7 million hits. It cast Putin as a superhero who saves a busload of people from terrorists along with his sidekick, Dmitry Medvedev, clad in a bear costume. (An English translation of the strip is available at the site.)
Last week someone put up professionally produced posters in several Moscow bus stations that depicted Putin as James Bond, but they were quickly taken down after Mr. Peskov complained.
Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow, says that things may not be what they seem in the murky, under-the-carpet Russian political struggle currently in full swing.
"This Putin's Army video is clearly a professional work, and it may well be an effort not to promote Putin but to discredit him with his conservative and Russian Orthodox base," says Mr. Mukhin.
"Young people won't be inspired by this approach of using sex to sell, while many traditional supporters of Putin will be turned off. Also, in this video Putin is named as 'president,' and that can only be aimed at souring his relations with the incumbent president, Medvedev. No good for Putin will come of this."
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